Court Finds Former Managers Guilty in Czech MUS Coal-Mining Privatization Fraud Case

In a court ruling today, Antonio Kolacek and Oldrich Klimecky were found guilty of fraud in connection with the privatization of the Czech MUS coal-mining company. The court stated that the former managers had deceived the state, resulting in a loss of over CZK 2 billion by concealing their acquisition of a minority state share. The verdict imposed a sentence of 7.5 years in prison for Kolacek and six years for Klimecky, along with the confiscation of several hundred million crowns from their bank accounts. Additionally, both individuals received a five-year ban from corporate management.

The court’s decision, subject to appeal, determined that Kolacek and Klimecky defrauded the Czech Republic of at least CZK 2.37 billion, which they are jointly required to repay. Silvie Slepickova, the chairwoman of the Prague City Court panel, stated that the men had committed fraud and abuse of their business positions, with Klimecky identified as the organizer of the crime.

In a separate ruling, former deputy industry minister Robert Sykora was found guilty of accepting a bribe related to the preparation of documents for the government’s decision on the sale of the MUS stake. Sykora received a three-year prison sentence, a CZK 4.5 million fine, and a disqualification order.

Of the defendants, only Kolacek was present during the verdict announcement. He expressed surprise and disagreement with the verdict, asserting that the privatization process in the 1990s had been misunderstood and that no illegal actions were taken. Kolacek argued that they had acted in accordance with the requirements of the government at the time and had not harmed the Czech Republic or Switzerland.

The prosecution’s case alleged that Kolacek, Klimecky, and others controlled the company with their own funds, siphoning off money under the pretext of increasing its value abroad. They then purportedly bought shares from the state at a significantly lower price once the share price had fallen. The sale of the state’s stake in MUS was approved by the government of Prime Minister Milos Zeman in July 1999.

The court proceedings began over four years ago, and the evidence was completed in March of this year. The defendants denied concealing their intentions from the government and argued that the state was aware of the buyers and prioritized the privatization of the asset. The court’s decision marks a significant development in this long-standing case, highlighting the consequences of fraudulent activities in the privatization process and demonstrating the justice system’s commitment to addressing such misconduct.

Article by Prague Forum

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